Review: en creux – PHASE


The electricity is fresh and harsh. Boiling hot and jagged at the edges. PHASE is a documentation of now, here, devoid of mediation, devoid of the corrective measures of overdubbing and re-recording, devoid of softening echoes and abstractive FX chains, devoid of the cooling effect of excessive human touch. Lucia H Chung’s interactions with this entity are mere suggestions of change, with her setup – a no-input feedback loop between an MXR Phase 90 pedal and a Tapco MIX 260 FX mixer – ultimately making the call on how to interpret her actions. With a system this volatile, Chung’s nudges quickly become cascades of consequence that spiral away from her moment of influence. For most of the album’s duration I’m hearing the hums of a circuit referencing back to itself, with a tiny human push turned into a whirl of momentum that ceases to need a player to sustain it; electricity pushing electricity pushing electricity, abstracted from the original gesture through the infinite loops of the circuit and yet, paradoxically, still hitting me like a jet of unadulterated instinct.

Aptly, there’s no gentle introduction here. The opening 20-minute track is a hot buzz that cuts in without warning, throbbing as if heard through the chopped air of helicopter blades. It tilts forward and back. Bass frequencies lift and reaffirm. The other changes over time – including the gradual deceleration of the throb – are either genuine sonic modulations or the perceptual illusions of a listener struggling to settle into the stasis. Often it’s hard to say which. The track yearns to be played incredibly loud, allowing voltage to fuse to bones, or for the motor-revving groan of the latter half to brim and deplete within the body, thus collapsing the empty space between the circuitry output and its shaken recipient. While the second track alternates between the hums and whistles of poorly-wired lights and rabid flutters of static, the album’s final piece is like pixelated missiles being dropped over the deserts of a Commodore game, each landing with a blunt burst of glitch, before gathering into the cautionary hum of a circuit about to topple into cacophony if the next manual tweak is too heavy-handed. In fact, PHASE suggests that this threat is always present; if there’s too much weight and deliberation behind the human intervention, the system descends into chaos. Instead, each gesture must be as raw and unmediated as the sound itself, following the wire that directly links the unconscious mind with the fingers.